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DevelopersCo-working AficionadosIndie bundle for Palestinian Aid

3 stars
A trip back home that doesn't quite deliver

The protagonist holds a stressful job in the big city. Circumstances lead them to an extended stay in their old hometown. They rekindle old relationships, form new ones, and ultimately have to make a big decision.

It’s a trope all too familiar from film and television, but less common in video games. Lake, released by Dutch indie studio Gamious in 2021, embraces the premise wholeheartedly.

Holiday job

The year is 1986. You play as Meredith, a 44-year-old programmer who spends her holiday in her old hometown of Providence Oaks, Oregon. It’s not much of a vacation, though! For two weeks, you fill in for your dad at the local post office, delivering letters and packages to members of the small lakeside community. Meanwhile, your parents are on an actual vacation in Florida.

Driving the mail delivery truck and occasionally interacting with residents functions as the core mechanic for advancing the game’s slice-of-life experience.

There’s no larger plot to uncover here, but you can get involved in small town drama. A lumberjack is protesting plans for real estate development; a young couple is on the run from the law; a small video rental store is fighting for its survival. Many of the characters are one-note stereotypes, but it’s still fun to talk to them.

Trucking along

These interaction opportunities are only delivered in small morsels. You spend a lot of your time just driving around and delivering mail without talking to anyone. (Occasionally, Meredith will issue a bit of monologue when putting a letter into a mailbox, like “Here’s your mail”.)

The local radio station helps break the monotony, until you notice that the same handful of songs keep repeating, at which point you’ll want to turn the radio off to keep your sanity.

Meredith is driving her truck around the lake. Get used to the view, because you’ll be seeing it a lot. (Credit: Gamious. Fair use.)

When outside the truck, Meredith can walk slowly or … walk slowly. In theory, you can accelerate her walking speed, but the increase is almost imperceptible.

Lake, then, is a game best played when you want to let your mind wander. The town is pretty to look at, and there are some nice details, like a fox or a deer crossing the road, or changes in the weather.

Uncanny hometown

Overall, however, the game’s reach exceeds its grasp. There’s a reason most “walking simulators” stick to just that: walking. The driving mechanic is awkward and immersion-breaking—you can drive your truck into anything or anyone without as much as a honk or a frown.

On my system, the game’s frame rate dropped from time to time, and the audio sometimes fell out of sync. There were also occasional visual glitches: cars floating in the air, people disappearing, lights flashing or flickering. Close-ups on characters are straight from the uncanny valley, with dead stares and robotic lip movement.

The game has three different endings; to its credit, you can pursue a male or female love interest. It doesn’t really broach the issue of small town homophobia in a meaningful way, and I was disappointed in the limited choices it ultimately offered for Meredith’s future.

The Verdict

All in all, I cannot recommend Lake: the mail delivery mechanic is too tedious, the technical problems are too numerous, and the story is too underdeveloped. That said, many other folks have found enjoyment in the game, and if you’re really looking for that small town vibe, you may want to check it out.

3 stars
Lost in Mindspace

Philip Ball is a veteran science writer whose books have shed light on a wide range of subjects, including molecular physics, pattern formation, music psychology, and quantum physics. In The Book of Minds, Ball attempts to penetrate the mystery of “mindedness”.

How would it feel to experience the world like a bat or a bee? Can we create artificial minds? And if alien life forms are out there, how would their minds relate to ours?

Imagination and its limits

Ball introduces the idea of a “space of possible minds” in which to situate any being. Using dimensions such as consciousness, agency, intelligence, and experience, it becomes possible to at least speculate systematically about how an animal mind might differ from our own.

Ball then surveys the forms of thinking, sensing and reacting that can be found in living things. He provides a brief introduction to newer theories of consciousness like Integrated Information Theory, and summarizes the state of artificial intelligence around the time the book was written.

The author frequently reminds us that, while we can speculate about dimensions of “mindspace”, we cannot transcend the limitations of our own minds when imagining the experience of other beings.

That doesn’t stop him from speculating about the possible minds of extraterrestrials. Ball notes that much of our science fiction merely extends human qualities and motivations into “alien” minds—the war-like species, the scientific species, etc. He reaches the obvious conclusion that we can say very little about what alien minds would actually be like.

Why agency matters

In the penultimate chapter, Ball engages in an impassioned defense of the concept of “free will”. While acknowledging that the term is problematic due to metaphysical connotations and lack of clear definition, he argues that the concept of agency as realized through minds is crucial to make sense of the world.

Ball dismisses questions of determinism as irrelevant. Of course, he says, everything happens because it could not be otherwise—that’s a banal, even tautological observation. But the causes of events don’t become more intelligible by reducing a person’s decisions to the interaction between molecules in their brains.

Minds produce decisions—that’s what they evolved to do—and thereby they cause things to happen. That distinguishes minds from other objects in the universe. We therefore need to approach agency as a subject of study: Why and how do minds decide certain things? It’s an implicit defense of fields like psychology for comprehending a universe that has minds in it.

While the chapter is essentially a long philosophical argument, I found it to be the most interesting one in the book. As for the remainder of The Book of Minds, regular readers of science writing are unlikely to encounter a lot of ideas they’ve never heard of before.

The Verdict

Ultimately, Ball’s core subject is riddled with so much uncertainty that it does not really warrant a 500-page book. Readers have to work through a lot of variations of “we don’t know” or “we can’t know” to get to the ideas Ball wants to bring across. That’s a shame, because those ideas are interesting—they’re just buried in prose.

5 stars
Nice free museum of local history

The museum is free and houses quite some nice, informative, sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing exhibits illustrating the history of the city and its surroundings since Stone Age. Unfortunately, object labels and other descriptive texts are in German only.

4 stars
Cheap ticket, service okay

I’ve taken a ride on the Cologne to Hamburg line. In comparison to Deutsche Bahn the ticket was pretty cheap. The service is a bit inferior though I feel. I couldn’t succeed to connect to the wifi apart from a short period of less than a minute though trying on three different devices and two different operating systems.
Unfortunately the schedule on the ticket doesn’t give information on the platform. I could find a bitly short URL redirecting to a Deutsche Bahn page with incomplete platform information. That’s complicated and bad for data privacy.
Public loudspeaker announcements in the train very pretty frequent and partly completely irrelevant admonishing behavior of some individual passengers publicly.
Considering the comparatively affordable price anyway a good option.

5 stars
Good vegan Levantine cuisine

A very friendly great place to get good vegan Levantine cuisine in Ehrenfeld. Unfortunately, takeaway packaging isn’t very sustainable, comes with quite some aluminum.

4 stars
Un habit technique discret et utile les pieds sur la terre ferme.

Nos concepteurs navigateurs ont conçu ce ciré femme long afin de vous protéger des embruns et d’une pluie modérée lors de vos navigations. Ce ciré femme long, imperméable et respirant vous préservera durablement dans une pluie modérée et lors de navigations en croisière. (Décathlon)

Les Plus

En taille S, le ciré me va parfaitement dans le sens où il ne tire ou ne me fait des bourrelets nulle part, je me suis cependant reporté sur la taille M qui descend quelques centimètres plus bas au niveau de l’entrejambe, plus large sur les épaules, et qui descend jusqu’aux métacarpes plutôt que le pli du poignet.

Les trois coloris disponibles – jaune, lin et bleu marine – sont en nombre limité mais suffisant, le design est sobre loin des doudounes avec des accents colorés un peu partout.

L’imperméabilité est donnée à 15000 mm Schmerber – ou 60.L.m⁻².h⁻¹. Une rapide recherche sur l’ordre de grandeur donne le GoreTex à 30000 mm. De façon anecdotique, je n’ai que des souvenirs peu agréables du peu de fois où la pluie était supérieure à 2 mm.h⁻¹ sur des trajets d’une heure environ.

Côté poids, rien de spécial. Mesuré, la balance indique un poid de 690 g (environ 20 g de plus que pour la taille S).

À priori, ce ciré léger et respirant s’accorde parfaitement dans une optique d’habillement en couches. La résistance évaporative thermique théorique indiquée est inférieure à 9, soit un peu plus haut que le Gore-tex qui est autour de 5 tandis que les coupe-vents usuels sont peu adaptés à l’activité avec un RET proche de 10. La couche textile intérieur en filet joue probablement un rôle important.

On trouve un total de 5 poches, dont une à l’intérieur. Autrement dit, deux poches à mains, une à portble – pratique pour un ciré qui couvre les poches du pantalon – et deux poches pour glisser des trucs et bricoles.

Surprise inattendue, la fermeture offre deux curseurs pour permettre une meilleure amplitude des jambes. J’ai une vague idée de l’utilité sur un bateau, mais pas besoin de me faire un dessin pour me dire que ça me sera très pratique à vélo !

Dernier détail qui peut et devrait avoir son importance, l’empreinte carbone du produit est annoncée à 29,94 kg CO₂e dont 12 % de gagnés via des méthodes d’écodesign. Je n’ai pas beaucoup de références pour comparaisons, seulement qu’un des objectifs serait de 2 t par an et par personne – personnellement je suis déjà en dessous et plus de la moitié ne résulte pas de choix directs.

Les Moins

Quelques détails m’empêchent d’être totalement ravi par cet achat, mineurs puisque n’handicapant pas la fonctionnalité mais présents.

La couleur « Lin » est légèrement trop jaune à mon goût et j’espérais une couleur plus froide, moins flashy sous la pluie. À l’inverse, quelques bandes réfléchissantes auraient été appréciables.

La coupe est, je suppose, volontairement large pour permettre d’enfiler plusieurs couches. Pour ma part je ne compte pas l’enfiler avec des couches épaisses et ai choisi une taille plutôt moulante, ce qui en parallèle rend les manches un peu courtes – aux plis des poignets au repos. Heurseusement, les « manchons » (sic) extensibles sont relativement discrets et seront un atout une fois sur le vélo. Je n’aurai pas à enfiler de manchon de cyclisme. Un col légèrement plus haut aurait été agréable contre les brises dans le cou.

Les textiles utilisés sont particulièrement rigides, contrairement à des tissus souples le moindre mouvement est particulièrement bruyant, mais en environnement extérieur cela ne se remarque pas tellement. Tout comme les multiples plissures que je ne m’explique pas. Au repos la couche externe montre des plissures à de nombreux endroits, sans qu’il n’y ait de tension particulière appliquée.

Toujours dans le détail, la fermeture est protégée par un rabat et il a été jugé pertinent de lui ajouter des boutons pressions. Je trouve ceux-ci un peu grossiers sur un habit autrement très sobre, mais je comprends que ça puisse être une demande au cahier des charges.

Ce qui n’est pas forcément le cas des poches. Bien que présentes, elles n’offrent qu’un volume relativement faible alors que je n’ai pas des pattounes d’ours. Idem, mon portable est relativement ancien et de petites dimensions mais pas sur que des récents y entrent.

Les Inconnues

Le prix est de 65 €. Tout comme l’empreinte carbone je n’ai que peu de références pour comparer, mais ça me paraît plus que raisonnable et raccord avec l’enseigne Décathlon. De plus, je pense que c’est un investissement sur le long terme – ma croissance étant à priori terminée –, pour lequel j’aurais attendu plus de 3 ans avant de me décider et qui, je l’espère, m’accompagnera de longues années durant – dans le cas contraire la garantie est de 2 ans et je peux demander un remboursement pendant 1 an.

4 stars
Great Food, great cocktails…

…nice staff …aweful music.

5 stars
Gyros Wrap  de

Hatte das köstliche Gyros Wrap. Gerne wieder.

5 stars
Absolute Empfehlung  de

Das Essen ist lecker und die Getränke süffig. Es lohnt sich hier einzukehren.

5 stars
Original Bolognese  de

Hier gibt es die unglaublich leckere originale Bolognese.